For the next several months, we as the NCC Task Force on Immigration will be writing and sending out tangible ways that you can be in advocacy for your immigrant neighbors, right where you live. At best, we feel the urge to be advocates, and we charge headlong into these endlessly deep and difficult waters. At worst, we feel the urging of the Holy Spirit, don’t know what to do, and become despondent, despairing that we can’t or haven’t done anything to help. We have challenged many of you in person to be advocates, and in this space, we are going to give you tangible ways to do that. We hope that you can take these articles we will post and use them. They are meant as starting points, yet they will not give you all of the answers.
These articles we will post will be based off of the 18 unit “Immigration Advocacy Methods for Congregations” table/worksheet, which starts at the top with easy examples of working with churches and building awareness and moves to more difficult examples, of acts of justice and mercy on the governmental level. You can find this table, here at this link.
Also, after the short articles (plus or minus 1,000 words) we will offer a resource that you can use in worship.
Congregational and District-Level Awareness
We live in a polarized world, are tempted to be in our own, ideological bunkers, and are moved to be in “echo chambers” where we only hear our own opinions spoken back to us. Whether we stay online at the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post or whether we leave Fox News playing in the background of our home TVs, we are victims of forces that drive us apart. This is perhaps the type of thing which Jesus said, in order to come out of us, must be dealt with “by prayer and fasting.” One of the most difficult things to do, but one of the most important and vital things we can do is enter into a space of listening to those with whom we differ.
Through relationships with many congregations, we on the Task Force have learned that we earn the right to be heard by others. Yelling, even prophetic shouting across the rift between us, does not help us to be heard. It is just too easy for our disagreeing neighbors to simply turn up the volume of people with whom they agree, ignoring us altogether. Some people have said that the “race dialogue” has been going on for decades. In some ways this is true, but in some ways, it’s false. A dialogue means that both sides listen. What we have had is several monologues. Monologues serve their purposes, and they indeed give us a great dopamine high, when we get affirmed by people like us. We need to listen to our ideological enemies, also – to love and pray for them, even if they spitefully use us.
It seems against common sense, to listen, because we know that it will cause us pain, to hear rhetoric that stabs at what we believe. However, beneath that rhetoric is always pain and suffering. So, in the next few lines, we will offer to you one possible framework of how to start the immigration advocacy conversation with people who are different than you. Here will be a few tangible things to say, attitudes to take, and ways to have the conversation. The result of these conversations, we hope, will be that you can be heard and even invite people alongside you:
In a confidential place, write down a “Top 5 most wanted” list of people with whom you want to talk.
6. Once you have a list of people who are interested, contact them for another meeting and together discuss what you are planning on doing. (It’s important to be honest with everyone and communicate what your intentions are, in a way that they can hear it). As with the short “Building a Movement” video, these people, if convinced, will convince more people than you can.
These conversations should come after you have already identified at least 1-2 other people in your congregation with whom you agree, on the topic of immigration. If you feel it’s appropriate, get one of them to come with you to the meetings with people who disagree. You can keep each other accountable to not getting into an argument. You don’t have to attend every argument to which you’re invited.